A two-part series beginning in Sunday's Sun explores pensions for public-sector employees. Part I delves into city pensions: how pensions for police officers, firefighters, public works employees and others are funded. A typical 30-year veteran of a municipality these days can expect to collect about $72,000 a year for the rest of his life. And often that person will be in his 50s when he retires.
Part II explains how the burden for funding teacher pensions falls mainly on the state. Still, the income and sales taxes you pay are expected to pay for these comfortable retirement plans.
These days, it's hard to find comparable benefits packages in the private sector, where 401(k) and similar programs designed to help individuals supplement expected Social Security incomes are the norm. Employers often make a modest match, but nothing like the 9 or 10 percent matches that municipalities and school districts kick in.
Given the state's financial situation, it's clear that pension reform is needed. Match amounts are determined by state law. Yet lawmakers seem to lack the political will to even consider reform, what with the clout wielded by unions.
How do we fix this problem? How do we even start? Or, do you even agree that there is a problem? Maybe you think the current pension systems are fair and sustainable, that it will always be the responsibility of taxpayers to fund these programs. It seems unlikely that any proposal to reduce pensions would ever pass--it would be political suicide for any politician to support that.
OK, then, here's a thought: If state law forces local taxpayers to pay for these generous $6,000-a-month retirement plans, what about getting the state or federal government to increase income taxes on those who collect public-sector pensions? Then the recipients at least would have to kick back enough until a fair balance is reached.
What other thoughts or ideas about public-sector pensions do you want to share?